"Tim Graham pointed out to me that CNN had a real attachment to the word ‘lurid’ yesterday [regarding Mark Foley's emails]. As disturbing as this story is, do we need to use tabloid adjectives? If they are going to treat the story like that, why not follow it with pieces on the latest Hollywood scandal or alien abduction? They would do their counterparts at the National Enquirer proud." -- Michelle Humphrey, Oct. 4, 2006
"ABC pounded the word "tabloid" in all of their coverage [of Dick Morris' relationship with a prostitute in 1996]. ... But now ABC is the 'tabloid' outlet on the ['D.C. Madam'] Call Girl beat." -- Tim Graham, April 30
"Will ABC News admit it was not only misinformed on an easily checked issue, but acted with tabloid journalism to boot?" -- Warner Todd Huston, April 21
But now that a tabloid is reporting something NewsBusters wants to hear, they want more. An Oct. 10 post by Jason Aslinger happily reports that "Ann Coulter did her best to drop a bomb on the October 10 episode of 'Tucker' " by repeating a National Enquirer claim that "John Edwards had an 18-month affair while on the campaign trail." While Aslinger does note that "this allegation must be met with a healthy degree of skepticism," he nevertheless demands that the media cover it anyway:
So now we have a tabloid allegation of marital infidelity by a presidential candidate. And the allegation has been repeated by Ann Coulter on MSNBC - so it's not as if it can be completely ignored at this point.
It is not unprecedented for the press to cover a sex scandal involving a Democratic candidate for presdient. Going way back in time, Senator Gary Hart ruined his presidential chances with an extramarital affair, which received plenty of press coverage at the time.
In this case, though, the question has to be asked: will the mainstream media pursue this allegation at all? If the media is to be consistent in its energized pursuit of sex scandals involving politicians, then it will be beating down doors to either confirm of refute this allegation. But will they? The first thought is that the media would be inclined to ignore the allegation, but the potential boost to the Clinton campaign might give the mainstream media a reason for following this storyline. Time will tell.
In other words, NewsBusters was against tabloid journalism before it was for it.
The more interesting question, though, is this: Will the rest of the ConWeb -- which has either embraced or denounced the tabloids as it suited their agenda -- pick up on the claim? NewsMax in particular has had a flip-floppingrelationship with tabloids.
Jeffrey Misleads on Waterboarding Topic: CNSNews.com
The headline of an Oct. 10 CNSNews.com column by Terry Jeffrey asks, "Is Waterboarding Ever Right?" then scares and misleads to suggest it is.
Jeffrey starts by serving up two hypotheticals to compare. The first is of a soldier who shoots a suicide bomber; the second, which suggests Jeffrey has watched way too much "24" and has worn out his copy of "Black Sunday," offers up that "al-Qaida cell has hidden a bomb inside the stadium where tens of thousands will gather that day for the Super Bowl," learned when "A caller in Pakistan dials a number in the United States. A U.S. spy satellite intercepts the call; an NSA computer records it," though "the computer has no warrant and no probable cause to believe this call will produce evidence of a crime." Jeffrey then tells of "Madame President" receiving purported counsel on the situation from "Attorney General Charles Schumer," who says, "They intercepted this guy's call without a warrant," and "National Security Advisor Sandy Berger," who "nods knowingly."
But Jeffrey doesn't mention that the FISA law under which such calls would be monitored allows the government to receive warrants retroactively.
Jeffrey then writes:
So much for hypotheticals.
Water-boarding is an interrogation technique in which a piece of plastic is placed over a subject's face and water is poured on it. The subject feels as if he is drowning, although he is not. According to a report for ABC News by Brian Ross, Richard Esposito and Martha Raddatz: "Its most effective use, say current and former CIA officials, was in breaking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as KSM, who subsequently confessed to a number of ongoing plots against the United States."
But by focusing only on a single news report on Mohammed that said what Jeffrey wanted to hear, he conveniently ignores questions about the effectiveness of coercive interrogation techniques -- including waterboarding -- used on Mohammed and others. Media Matters noted that an Aug. 13 August New Yorker article on the CIA's interrogation program reported that "even supporters" of the CIA's interrogation and detention program "acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable" and that "[w]hen pressed, one former top agency official estimated that 'ninety per cent of the information was unreliable.' " During Mohammed's interrogation, the article adds, he "claimed responsibility for so many crimes that his testimony became to seem [sic] inherently dubious":
In addition to confessing to the [Daniel] Pearl murder, he said that he had hatched plans to assassinate President Clinton, President Carter, and Pope John Paul II. Bruce Riedel, who was a C.I.A. analyst for twenty-nine years, and who now works at the Brookings Institution, said, "It's difficult to give credence to any particular area of this large a charge sheet that he confessed to, considering the situation he found himself in. K.S.M. has no prospect of ever seeing freedom again, so his only gratification in life is to portray himself as the James Bond of jihadism."
Jeffrey concludes by innocuously describing the waterboarding of Mohammed as "pouring water on Mohammed's head."
New Article: Schmoozing With a Terrorist Whitewasher Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein turns his chatting-up-Muslim-militants gimmick into a book. But there are some terrorists he's not terribly eager to write about. Read more.
NewsBusters Defends Bloggers Who Attacked SCHIP Family Topic: NewsBusters
NewsBusters has responded to its misleading reporting on the Graeme Frost family and its SCHIP coverage -- not by telling the truth, but complaining that conservative bloggers are being "smear[ed]" for peddling misleading information -- er, offering "scrutiny" of the Frost family.
In an Oct. 10 post, Ken Shepherd complained that after the bloggers attacked the Baltimore Sun for running "a gauzy profile on Graeme's mom and dad and their push for the Democratic SCHIP expansion," the Sun "is hitting back by attacking conservatives bloggers as heartless and obsessive." Well, yeah, when you're skulking around someone's house to determine if it looks poor enough to qualify for SCHIP, then yeah, that's a good definition of obsessive.
Shepherd glosses over the fact that those conservative bloggers -- including NewsBusters itself -- have peddled misleading and inaccurate claims about the Frosts:
USA Today reported in its October 10 paper that Graeme is a scholarship student and his sister Gemma's tuition at the Park School iscovered by a state education program. Of course, these are two facts might have been noted in initial coverage by the Sun had it been more diligent and skeptical and less interested in promoting liberal Democratic talking points.
But shouldn't NewsBusters' John Stephenson also have noted that as well when he regurgitated a psedonymous Free Republic blogger's claims that the children "attend the very exclusive Park School, which has a tuition of $20,000 a year, per child." Same with the claim that "they live in a 3,000+ square foot home in a neighborhood with smaller homes that are selling for at least $400,000" without also noting that the family bought the house 16 years ago for $55,000.
Perhaps that would have happened if NewsBusters was more diligent and skeptical and less interested in promoting conservative Republican talking points.
UPDATE: An Oct. 10 NewsBusters post and TimesWatch item by Clay Waters takes a similar tack, bashing the New York Times of taking a "hostile tone" for noting that the Frosts "have been attacked by conservative bloggers." But like Shepherd, Waters doesn't acknowledge that his conservative buddies have forwarded misleading information.
UPDATE 2: Waters, in the TimesWatch version, also notes that "Dan Riehl has some questions the Times didn't answer." But he didn't note that Riehl -- best known around these parts for peddling false claims about S.R. Sidarth at NewsBusters -- also smeared the Frosts, calling them "a couple of mostly spoiled brats who became parents and never felt compelled to take responsibility for themselves." Does this mean that Waters, by endorsing Riehl's reporting, also endorses Riehl's smear of the Frosts?
Bozell Lies About the Competition Topic: Media Research Center
Brent Bozell, in his Oct. 9 column, takes another swipe at the competition, Media Matters (my employer), falsely claiming that it's "George Soros-funded." It's not. Of course, Bozell doesn't have much to say about who pays his salary. (Bonus: Learn how much Bozell and Co. make!)
Bozell attempts to pile on by decrying "the far left at its repugnant worst, perfectly content to destroy a man's reputation through dishonest attacks if it will further its agenda. Josef Stalin would be proud of this movement." No mention, of course, of the MRC's own attempts to destroy reputations through dishonest attacks in order to further its agenda.
CNS Overlooks Full Story of Thompson, Finance Probe Topic: CNSNews.com
An Oct. 10 CNSNews.com article by Fred Lucas quotes conservatives criticizing Fred Thompson for "how the former Tennessee senator handled the 1990s Senate probe into Clinton campaign fundraising corruption." The telling quote comes from Human Events' John Gizzi, who said Thompson "was so passionate about ethics laws that he turned the investigation into a bipartisan investigation for ethics reforms, and in the end had no case."
What does that mean? Lucas doesn't say. But as Media Matters details, Thompson shut down the investigation rather than examine campaign finance violations by Republicans. Not that he didn't try, as Gizzi hints at; The Boston Glob reported in 1997 that "Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, have criticized Thompson for allowing Democrats to spend a week earlier this year examining the dealings of former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour." But ultimately, Thompson refused to let Democrats hold a hearing on Republican fundraising abuses and instead shut down the probe entirely.
So what Gizzi is trying to say is that he's mad at Thompson for not conducting a partisan witch hunt to pile up more dirt on Clinton. Lucas should have explained that better to his readers.
Will NewsBusters Tell Truth About SCHIP Kid's Family? Topic: NewsBusters
In an Oct. 8 NewsBusters post, John Stephenson asserted that the media weren't telling the truth about Graeme Frost, the 12-year-old who delivered a Democratic radio address promotting the SCHIP children's health program, which President Bush recently vetoed. Stephenson claimed the media "swallowed the story whole" about the Frost family -- that the Baltimore family is raising four children on an income of $45,000 a year and relies on SCHIP -- and that news stories "were missing greatly in one major thing, facts."
As evidence, Stephenson cited a Free Republic poster who claimed:
First, Mr. Halsey Frost, Graeme’s father, owns his own woodworking design studio, Frostworks, so his claim that he can’t get health insurance through work is shockingly deceptive. He chooses not to get health care for his family. Second, Graeme and his sister Gemma attend the very exclusive Park School, which has a tuition of $20,000 a year, per child. Third, they live in a 3,000+ square foot home in a neighborhood with smaller homes that are selling for at least $400,000.
But the Freeper turns out to be fact-challeged as well. Think Progress reports:
1) Graeme has a scholarship to a private school. The school costs $15K a year, but the family only pays $500 a year.
2) His sister Gemma attends another private school to help her with the brain injuries that occurred due to her accident. The school costs $23,000 a year, but the state pays the entire cost.
3) They bought their “lavish house” sixteen years ago for $55,000 at a time when the neighborhood was less than safe.
4) Last year, the Frosts made $45,000 combined. Over the past few years they have made no more than $50,000 combined.
5) The state of Maryland has found them eligible to participate in the CHIP program.
Will Stephenson correct his post and tell the truth about the Frost family? We'll be watching...
Shepherd Repats Claim Matthews Is 'Brazen Cheerleader' for Hillary Topic: NewsBusters
In a Oct. 8 NewsBusters post, Ken Shepherd approvingly repeats Human Events' Jed Babbin's assertion that Chris Matthews "is an over-the-top liberal, a brazen cheerleader for [Hillary] Clinton."
That, of course, is why Matthews has likened Hillary to MadameDefarge, claimed she looked at former Vice President Al Gore with "dead people's eyes," laughed at the suggestion that Clinton would poison Sen. Barack Obama, and said of her, "She has to smile when she puts the knife in."
Also, Shepherd again referred readers to "NewsBusters' comprehensive coverage of Chris Matthews" even though, as we've detailed, it is filled with misleading, out-of-context claims.
NewsBusters: ABC Stands For 'Alerting Bin Laden's Compatriots' Topic: NewsBusters
An Oct. 9 NewsBusters post by Ken Shepherd is headlined, "Alerting Bin Laden's Compatriots (ABC): Al Qaeda Goes Dark Thanks to Network." In it, Shepherd cites an Oct. 9 New York Sun article claiming that a leak of Osama bin Laden's September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that American intelligence agencies had penetrated the enemy's computer systems, prompting al-Qaeda to shut down its system. Shepherd adds: "You can thank ABC News for that."
But is ABC really to blame? Shepherd gives surprisingly short shrift to the fact that it was leaked information, saying only that "it's not just the leaker but the leakee that has moral culpability for potential lives lost due to the intelligence failures that may result here," but he devotes most of his time to bashing ABC. But neither he nor the Sun offer any evidence that ABC was aware that the leak of the bin Laden video might compromise intelligence methods or that ABC went with the story anyway depite taht.
Shepherd does not mention an Oct. 9 Washington Post article, which clearly demonstrates that it was a leak from within the Bush administration that resulted in news coverage:
A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.
Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.
Further, the claim suggested by the Sun and repeated by Shepherd that ABC was the first to report on bin Laden's speech is not quite corroborated by the Post article:
By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News's Web site referred to SITE [the private intelligence firm that had tapped into the al-Qaeda network and downloaded the bin Laden video] and included page markers identical to those used by the group. "This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document," Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.
Yet Shepherd reserves nearly all his opprobrium for a single news outlet for reporting some unquestionably newsworthy -- while offering no evidence whatsoever that it did so maliciously -- and not the government officials who leaked it before intelligence methods could be protected.
It was the Bush administration that was "Alerting Bin Laden's Compatriots." Why is that ABC's fault?
UPDATE: An Oct. 9 NewsMax column by Phil Brennan similarly cites the Sun article as an example of how the media engage in "routine publishing of vital national security secrets" and, thus, are guilty of "treason." But, like Shepherd, Brennan whitewashes the fact that the speech was leaked by the Bush administration and offers no evidence that ABC reported on the speech with the knowledge or intent that it would harm intelligence gathering.
Warner Todd Huston takes his FredThompsonsycophancy to a new level in an Oct. 8 NewsBusters post, complaining that what Thompson's supporters in the "spin room" following tonight's Republican debate are being accused of, uh, spinning:
MSNBC's Chuck Todd posted a blog post today on his First Read blog titled "George Allen, Liz Cheney to Spin for Thompson." So, any takers to wonder if Chuck Todd would have posted a blog post titled "Sandy Berger to Spin for Clinton," or "Oprah to Spin for Obama"? Does anyone think that Chuck Todd would have used such a negative word as "spin" to describe the assistance a high profile supporter would give a Democrat candidate?
So no candidate's supporter could ever come on to offer post debate commentary without it being "spin"? No one could possibly be honestly supporting their candidate? Is that how Chuck Todd sees the situation?
Now, politics fanatics would know that the post debate media pit is called the "spin room." But the headline doesn't explain that at all and certainly leaves the feel that Chuck Todd is saying "George Allen, Liz Cheney to Lie for Thompson." Leaving off the "room" to spin room materially changes the feel of the headline for most people who are not as plugged into the media and politics.
There's little doubt this could have been an accident.
No wonder the MSM can't report anything right! After all, they think everyone around them are liars, so they must imagine that they can put their "spin" on the news. After all, everyone else is doing it and all that.
Is Huston really saying that Thompson's supporters are so above politics and so sincere in their support that it's inaccurate to describe them as "spinning" for their candidate? Sounds like someone's furiously spinning here.
WND Repeats Misleading Gun-Law Poster Boy Anecdote Topic: WorldNetDaily
An Oct. 6 WorldNetDaily article repeats a misleading anecdote about a man who's being held up by a right-wing gun-rights group as an argument against more restrictive gun laws -- right down to getting the man's name wrong.
As it did in an a Sept. 27 article by Bob Unruh, WND -- in parroting Gun Owners of America's opposition to a law that would create and enforce a mechanism to deny guns for mental health reasons -- once again told the case of "Horatio Miller," who made an "offhanded, tongue-in-cheek remark" that it could be "worse than Virginia Tech" if someone broke into his car because of the guns there, adding: "Miller, with no criminal record and the holder of a concealed carry permit who had passed rigorous background checks, was ordered never to own or possess a gun again."
But as we documented, there's a lot more to this case that WND's not telling. Horasio Miller -- his actual name -- was reported by police to have pointed a gun at a neighbor, was caught inside a college buiding with a 9mm pistol, and discovered to have been tapping phone lines for free service and listening in on phone conversations of other tenants in the building. When authorities investigated Miller's apartment, they found it so dirty that it was deemed unfit for human habitation.
The article also repeats the GOA's objection to the proposed law's prohibition on gun ownership by "any veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" without explaining why it's a good thing for veterans with PTSD to have access to weapons.
Copying-and-pasting is not exactly stellar journalism. Copying-and-pasting things proven to be distorted and misleading looks especially stupid.
In a Fox & Friends segment on Hillary Clinton and her founding of the left-wing group Media Matters, substitute co-host Greg Kelly brought the fair-and-balanced mantra to bear by questioning guest Byron York of National Review about the Media Research Center, suggesting (to gasps at MRC employee breakfast nooks) that these groups are "arguably...the same thing."
Graham quickly added: "Luckily, York quickly made one important distinction: MRC mostly monitors 'objective' media, while MMFA mostly badgers [and ahem, calls for the firing/censorship of] conservative talk show hosts and other opinion journalists."
Yes, Tim's pretending again. The MRC's alleged focus on " 'objective' media" is contradicted by its numerous attacks on Rosie O'Donnell and Keith Olbermann, which suggest that the MRC does in fact object to liberal opinions being voiced on air. And claiming that Media Matters (my employer) "mostly badgers ... conservative talk show hosts and other opinion journalists ignores that it has also been critical of coverage by purportedly liberal media bastions such as Chris Matthews and the New York Times. (We already know the MRC smears people and takes them out of context.)
And if the MRC doesn't "call for the firing/censorship of" liberals, why is it floating the idea that Chris Matthews should be barred from moderating an upcoming Republican debate for merely making a factual statement?
The only substantive difference between Media Matters and the MRC is that the MRC had a 17-year head start.
Klein Works His Terrorist Gimmick Topic: WorldNetDaily
We've detailed how WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein has cozied up to (a handful of) terrorists in order to get them to say things -- i.e., their purported endorsement of liberal U.S. politicians and policies -- that just happen to coincide with what conseratives want to believe about liberals. With the publication of Klein's book documenting his terrorist buddies saying these things, "Schmoozing with Terrorists," the gimmick has been raised to a new level.
An Oct. 8 WND article claims that, according to the book, "Muslim terrorist leaders in the Middle East have offered their endorsement for America's highest office, stating in a new book they hope Sen. Hillary Clinton is victorious in 2008."
Left unspoken throughout all of these terrorists serving as vessels for conservative talking points is what Klein had to do to get these interviews. We've surmised that Klein has some sort of undisclosed quid pro quo with his terrorist buddies -- Klein gives them in return for telling him what he wants to hear. It may be that the terrorists are indeed playing along with Klein's little game, but they may not know that Klein is using their words to rally conservatives against them.
That makes a Sept. 25 WND article purporting to describe the terrorists complaining about Klein's book particularly disingenuous. Given that it quotes Klein's terrorist sources, the only person who could have written this story and talked to these folks is Klein himself -- which means he's soliciting quotes about himself.
Noel Sheppard's Media Matters Complex Topic: NewsBusters
Noel Sheppard seems to be exhibiting a case of displaced anger.
For the second time in a week, Sheppard has penned an attack on our employer, Media Matters, and our boss, David Brock. We wonder if the actual target of Sheppard's missives is, in fact, little ol' us. After all, we are the Internet's foremost watchdog of NewsBusters and -- more to the point -- have caught Sheppard making numerous false and misleading claims (so many it took twoarticles to document them all).
Our theory: Since he can't rebut us -- having been caught in so many lies and misstatements, he'd rather pretend we didn't exist at all -- he's taking it out on our employer.
Noel, honey, it's OK. We know the truth hurts, but lashing out at others is ultimately self-destructive. How about you, me, and Al Gore hug it out together -- waddaya say?
Kessler Misleads on FISA, Parrots Administration Line Topic: Newsmax
As he did before the 2006 midterm elections, NewsMax's Ronald Kessler is resorting to scare tactics about terrorism. The previous cause was the re-election of Republicans; this time, Kessler is trying to remove as many restrictions as possible on government wiretapping.
Kessler began his Oct. 5 column by claiming, "In their efforts to demonize the American intelligence community, Democrats and the media are playing with our safety" by "minimizing and distorting warnings from Mike McConnell, director of National Intelligence, about how defenseless America would become if warrants were required to intercept terrorists’ calls and e-mails even when those communications are in foreign countries." He attacked a court ruling that had mandated warrants be obtained for such wiretapping because most of the switches that govern worldwide telecommunications are on U.S. soil. Kessler ramped up the scare factor:
Because of the ruling, tens of thousands of calls and e-mails were not being examined. Any one of them could have contained clues to an al-Qaida plot to detonate nuclear devices in Manhattan and Washington. As FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has told me, these are al-Qaida's twin goals.
Obtaining a FISA court order requires an average of 200 man hours of preparation. Often, people who speak Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu have to be pulled off tracking leads to possible plots to help prepare the applications. Moreover, by the time an order is obtained for a new targeted phone number, the call is finished.
Kessler offers no evidence to support this assertion, though it appears to be an assertion made by McConnell himself. Wired's Threat Level blog crunched the numbers:
In 2006, the government filed 2,181 such applications with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. The court approved 2,176. 2006 FISA Warrant Applications.
That means government employees spent 436,200 hours writing out foreign intelligence wiretaps in 2006. That's 53,275 workdays.
Let's assume dedicated government employees work 40 hours a week with two weeks off a year. That means there were 218 government employees with top secret clearances sitting in rooms, writing only FISA warrants.
Kessler also doesn't mention that authorities can obtain a FISA warrant up to 72 hours after the eavesdropping begins, which would seem to negate the issue of not being able to obtain warrants until after "the call is finished."
Kessler continues by reciting McConnell's assertion that in one case, "the delay in obtaining a warrant was nine and a half hours." But then, Kessler complains, "the press pounced" by pointing out that, as the Washington Post reported, the delay was not caused by the need to comply with FISA, as McConnell claimed, but "primarily by legal wrangling between the Justice Department and intelligence officials over whether authorities had probable cause to begin the surveillance." Kessler sought to play that down:
The problem was not “legal wrangling,” the term the Post chose to apply to legal deliberations. The problem was that FISA had not kept up with technological changes and needed to be revised to make it conform to its original intent.
Kessler is merely parroting the line from McConnell's office, as demonstrated by communications between TPMmuckraker and McConnell's spokesman, Ross Feinstein. Shouldn't someone like Kessler, who seems to aspire to be a reporter of some kind, aim for more than merely repeating Bush administration talking points?
Kessler concludes with a bit more scaremongering:
If al-Qaida succeeds at its goals, it could literally wipe out millions of Americans and institute a nuclear winter. Yet between the Democrats’ efforts to handcuff those who are trying to protect us and the mainstream media’s efforts to malign those officials and distort the truth about the issues we face, we as Americans are at the mercy of people bent on committing suicide.
Osama bin Laden, known to follow the media closely, has to be laughing.
Again: Doesn't Kessler aspire to being more than a Bush administration shill? Unfortunately, we know the answer to that is an emphatic no.